Protocol - Decision Making (Iowa Gambling Task) - Adult

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The Iowa Gambling Test™ is a computer-administered task in which the participant selects cards one at a time from four decks. Participants are instructed that each card selected will result in winning money, with some cards also taking money away. The goal of the task is to accumulate as much money as possible. Two of the decks are advantageous (i.e., over the long run, the participant can expect to win money because these decks include cards that offer small rewards with cards that offer modest losses).The other two decks are disadvantageous (i.e., over the long run, the participant can expect to lose money because these decks include cards with large rewards but also cards with disproportionately large losses). Several summary scores can be calculated, including total money won and the difference between advantageous and disadvantageous selections.

For more information about the Iowa Gambling Test™, please refer to the Cognitive Atlas Interpretation.

Specific Instructions

The Iowa Gambling Test™ is a proprietary protocol and its administration requires a licensing agreement from PAR, Inc.

Participants can play for hypothetical or real rewards; the two conditions give highly similar results.

Because there are likely to be practice effects, repeat administration of the test is not recommended.


Limited Availability


Summary of the Iowa Gambling Test™

Participants are given a loan and then instructed to get as much money as possible by drawing cards one at a time from four separate decks. All cards reward the participant with money, while some also penalize the participant by taking money away. Two of the decks are "disadvantageous" resulting in an equivalent net loss in the long run, while the other two decks are "advantageous" resulting in an equivalent net gain over time.


Normative scores are automatically generated by a software program. Two normative standards - demographically corrected (N = 932) and U.S. Census-matched (N = 264) - are available. Several normative scores are generated by the software, including Total Net Score, net scores for each block of 20 cards/trials, total number of cards selected from each deck, and total money won. In addition, raw scores and T-score profiles, which may reveal relevant information (e.g., learning curve, random selection), are generated. Lastly, a trial-by-trial table that displays deck choice, amount won, amount lost, total money, and time for each trial is generated for each administration. In addition, the pattern of deck choice can be analyzed further to determine whether sensitivity to reward versus aversion to punishment was the primary determinant of decision making, with subscores for each (see references of Yechiam et al., 2005 and Busemeyer & Stout, 2002).

The Iowa Gambling Test is a trademark of PAR, Inc.

Personnel and Training Required

The Iowa Gambling Test™ can be administered by research assistants trained in the ethical and competent use of psychological tests. Examiners should study the administration and scoring procedures found in the Professional Manual and follow all procedures precisely.

Equipment Needs

The computerized version of the Iowa Gambling Test™ requires Windows XP, Vista, or 7 and NTFS file system, Internet connection for activation, and a CD-ROM drive for installation.

Requirement CategoryRequired
Major equipment No
Specialized training No
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collection No
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individual Yes
Mode of Administration

Self-administered evaluation


Adolescent, Adult


Adults and adolescents aged 13 years or older

Selection Rationale

The Iowa Gambling Test™ is a well known test of decision making and users of alcohol, cocaine, opiates, and marijuana have been shown to perform more poorly than controls. Furthermore, the Iowa Gambling Test™ was originally developed for patients with lesions in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain known to be involved in addiction disorders. The Iowa Gambling Test™ outcomes are stable across different modes of administration (e.g., using a computer-based test versus using a deck of cards) and across different rewards (e.g., real versus fake money) (Buelow & Suhr, 2009; Bowman & Turnbull, 2003).



Human Phenotype Ontology Risk taking HP:0031472 HPO
Derived Variables


Process and Review

The Expert Review Panel #3 (ERP 3) reviewed the measures in Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Substances, and Substance Abuse and Addiction domains.

Guidance from ERP 3 includes:

• No significant changes to measure

Back-compatible: NA no changes to Data Dictionary

Protocol Name from Source

Iowa Gambling Test™


Bechara, A., Damasio, A. R., Damasio, H., & Anderson, S. W. (1994). Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex. Cognition, 50(1-3), 7-15.

The Iowa Gambling Test™ is a proprietary protocol and administration requires a licensing agreement from PAR, Inc.: PAR, Inc. 16204 N. Florida Ave. Lutz, FL 33549 Tel: 800 331 8378 E-mail: custsup@parinc.com Web: http://www.parinc.com

General References

Ahn, W. Y., Busemeyer, J. R., Wagenmakers, E. J., & Stout, J. C. (2009). Comparison of decision learning models using the generalization criterion method. Cognitive Science, 32, 1376-1402.

Bechara, A., Tranel, D., & Damasio, H. (2000). Characterization of the decision-making deficit of patients with ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions. Brain, 123, 2189-2202.

Bowman, C. H., & Turnbull, O. H. (2003). Real versus facsimile reinforcers on the Iowa gambling task. Brain and Cognition, 53,207-210.

Buelow, M. T., & Suhr, J. A. (2009). Construct validity of the Iowa Gambling Task. Neuropsychology Review, 19(1), 102-114.

Busemeyer, J. R., & Stout, J. C. (2002). A contribution of cognitive decision models to clinical assessment: Decomposing performance on the Bechara Gambling Task. Psychological Assessment, 14, 253-262.

Olson, E. A., Hooper, C. J., Collins, P., & Luciana, M. (2007). Adolescents’ performance on delay and probability discounting tasks: contributions of age, intelligence, executive functioning, and self-reported externalizing behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 43(7), 1886-1897.

Stout, J. C., Busemeyer, J. R., Lin, A., Grant, S. R., & Bonson, K. R. (2004). Cognitive modeling analysis of the decision-making processes used by cocaine abusers. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 11(4), 742-747.

Yechiam, E., Busemeyer, J. R., Stout, J. C., & Bechara, A. (2005). Using cognitive models to map relations between neuropsychological disorders and human decision making deficits. Psychological Science, 16(12), 841-861.

Protocol ID


Export Variables
Variable Name Variable IDVariable DescriptiondbGaP Mapping
PX530202000000 Protocol 530202 - proprietary. Check DCW for more
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Substance Use-related Neurobehavioral and Cognitive Risk Factors
Measure Name

Decision Making (Iowa Gambling Task)

Release Date

February 24, 2012


This measure assesses the degree to which subjects can learn and adapt behavior to avoid punished responses in order to maximize benefits from a series of decisions.


Substance users and substance-dependent individuals are known to have poor decision-making skills (Buelow & Suhr, 2009). Because decision-making skills develop during childhood and adolescence and continue into adulthood, this measure can be used to predict the emergence of potential new risk behaviors such as substance use.


Adult, Child, Decision Making, Drug Abuse, drug use, IGT, Iowa Gambling Test™, PAR, Inc., proprietary, risk, Risk Taking, substance abuse, substance use, SAA, Substance Use-related Neurobehavioral and Cognitive Risk Factors, computer administered

Measure Protocols
Protocol ID Protocol Name
530201 Decision Making (Iowa Gambling Task) - Child
530202 Decision Making (Iowa Gambling Task) - Adult

There are no publications listed for this protocol.